Sen. Kamala Harris Compares ICE to the KKK

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Posted: Nov 15, 2018 6:00 PM
Sen. Kamala Harris Compares ICE to the KKK

On Wednesday, Senator Kamala Harris compared the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) service to the Ku Klux Klan, insisting that certain “communities” view the agency as a “domestic terrorist group” that deliberately uses “fear and intimidation” to specifically target “immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America” based on their racial or ethnic background.

The California Democrat made these remarks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing meant to determine whether acting ICE Director Ronald Vitiello will become the agency’s newest official head. In spite of Harris repeatedly formulating her comparison of ICE to the KKK as the “perception” of some distant third party, Vitiello saw through the senator’s transparent attempt to smear him and his agents and denied that any parallels existed between the two groups [emphasis mine]:

VITIELLO: Well, the Klan was what we would call today a domestic terrorist group.

HARRIS: Why? Why would we call them “domestic terrorist group” [sic]?

VITIELLO: ‘Cause they tried to use fear and force to change political environment[sic].

HARRIS: And what was the motivation for the use of fear and force?

VITIELLO: It was based on race and ethnicity.

HARRIS: Right.Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws? And do you see any parallels?

VITIELLO: I do not see any parallels between sworn officers and agents-

HARRIS: [interrupting] I’m talking about perception. I’m talking about perception.

VITIELLO: I do not see a parallel between what is constitutionally mandated as it relates to enforcing the law-

HARRIS: [talking over Vitiello] Are you aware that there’s a perception -- are you aware that there’s a perception-

VITIELLO: I see no perception that puts ICE in the same category as the KKK. Is that what you’re asking me?

HARRIS: No, I’m very specific about what I’m asking you. Are you aware of a perception that the way that the discretion-

VITIELLO: [interrupting] I see no parallel.

HARRIS: I’m not finished.

VITIELLO: I see none.

HARRIS: I’m not finished. I’m not finished. Are you aware that there’s a perception that ICE is administering its power in a way that is causing fear and intimidation, particularly among immigrants and specifically among immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America? Are you aware of that perception?

VITIELLO: I do not see a parallel between the power and the authority that ICE has to do its job and the agents and officers who do it professionally and excellently with lots of compassion-

HARRIS: [interrupting] Sir, how can you be the head of an agency and be unaware of how your agency is perceived by certain communities?

VITIELLO: There’s a lot of perceptions in the media and in the public that are incorrect about the agency and what it does-

HARRIS: [interrupting] But the perception exists, would you agree, whether or not it’s correct? And wouldn’t you agree then that if that perception exists, there might need to be some work done to correct the perception?

Regardless of Harris’s denials, it is quite clear from both the video of her exchange with Vitiello and the transcript of it that she was in fact comparing ICE to the KKK. Moreover, the California senator was also trying to force the acting director to admit that this comparison has some validity outside of the Democrats’ new immigration policy echo chamber, where enforcing any immigration laws is now viewed as authoritarian and fascistic. (I guess we can now add “terroristic” to that list.)

Amusingly, Harris’s comparison of ICE to the KKK was immediately preceded by the senator criticizing Vitiello for comparing the Democratic Party to the Klan in a 2015 tweet:

HARRIS: …So I want to return to the question that Senator Peters asked you about the statement you made describing the Democratic Party as “liberalcratic” or “NeoKlanist,” which was -- I think the assumption there was that you were comparing it to the Klu, Ku Klux Klan -- Klu [sic] Klux Klan, the KKK. So, you said in response to his question, you’re sorry because the words caused offense. So, would you not be sorry if no one was offended by your words?

VITIELLO: No, it was wrong to do.

HARRIS: Why was it wrong?

VITIELLO: Because those are offensive words.

HARRIS: Why are they offensive?

VITIELLO: Because they have history in this country and, and -- I, I honestly didn’t mean it that way.

After this brief back-and-forth, Harris then directly led the discussion towards her rhetorical questions about the supposed “parallels” between ICE and the KKK.

A video of the relevant segment of the hearing can be found at Grabien News; a full transcript of Sen. Harris and Vitiello’s exchange follows below:

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS: Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I’d like to emphasize your point. This is a hearing to determine who will be the next head of ICE, so this is about reviewing the perspectives, the qualifications, and the experience of the nominee. So, that being said, I think, Mr. Vitellio [sic], that you would agr- -- have I pronounced your name correctly?

RONALD VITIELLO: Vitiello [pronounced “Vitello”].

HARRIS: Vitiello.

VITIELLO: Thank you.

HARRIS: I think you would agree as a member of law enforcement that law enforcement generally speaking —and certainly it would be the case with ICE officers and agents — that a great deal of your power is discretionary. You have limited resources and you make decisions about what you’re gonna do, but you exercise a great deal of discretion in terms of how you are going to use the limited resources and how you are gonna prioritize them.

And then, understanding that, I think you would also agree that one’s perspective and their bias, if they have bias, will influence their exercise of discretion in terms of the power they have and how it will be used and implemented. So I want to return to the question that Senator Peters asked you about the statement you made describing the Democratic Party as “liberalcratic” or “NeoKlanist,” which was -- I think the assumption there was that you were comparing it to the Klu, Ku Klux Klan -- Klu [sic] Klux Klan, the KKK. So, you said in response to his question, you’re sorry because the words caused offense. So, would you not be sorry if no one was offended by your words?

VITIELLO: No, it was wrong to do.

HARRIS: Why was it wrong?

VITIELLO: Because those are offensive words.

HARRIS: Why are they offensive?

VITIELLO: Because they have history in this country and, and -- I, I honestly didn’t mean it that way.

HARRIS: But please talk about the history. What is the history that would then make those words wrong?

VITIELLO: Well, the Klan was what we would call today a domestic terrorist group.

HARRIS: Why? Why would we call them “domestic terrorist group” [sic]?

VITIELLO: ‘Cause they tried to use fear and force to change political environment [sic].

HARRIS: And what was the motivation for the use of fear and force?

VITIELLO: It was based on race and ethnicity.

HARRIS: Right. Are you aware of the perception of many about how the power and the discretion at ICE is being used to enforce the laws? And do you see any parallels?

VITIELLO: I do not see any parallels between sworn officers and agents-

HARRIS: [interrupting] I’m talking about perception. I’m talking about perception.

VITIELLO: I do not see a parallel between what is constitutionally mandated as it relates to enforcing the law-

HARRIS: [talking over Vitiello] Are you aware that there’s a perception -- are you aware that there’s a perception-

VITIELLO: I see no perception that puts ICE in the same category as the KKK. Is that what you’re asking me?

HARRIS: No, I’m very specific about what I’m asking you. Are you aware of a perception that the way that the discretion-

VITIELLO: [interrupting] I see no parallel.

HARRIS: I’m not finished.

VITIELLO: I see none.

HARRIS: I’m not finished. I’m not finished. Are you aware that there’s a perception that ICE is administering its power in a way that is causing fear and intimidation, particularly among immigrants and specifically among immigrants coming from Mexico and Central America? Are you aware of that perception?

VITIELLO: I do not see a parallel between the power and the authority that ICE has to do its job and the agents and officers who do it professionally and excellently with lots of compassion-

HARRIS: [interrupting] Sir, how can you be the head of an agency and be unaware of how your agency is perceived by certain communities?

VITIELLO: There’s a lot of perceptions in the media and in the public that are incorrect about the agency and what it does-

HARRIS: [interrupting] But the perception exists, would you agree, whether or not it’s correct? And wouldn’t you agree then that if that perception exists, there might need to be some work done to correct the perception?

VITIELLO: I do want to advocate for the workforce that the vital public safety mission that they have to protect the homeland [sic], and I think more people need to know how valuable they are to the society, so I agree with you on that.